According to a global measure of political corruption, Australia is one of 21 nations with serious issues on that front.
With numerous incidents of political wrongdoing captivating media attention as of late, it comes as no surprise that our international credibility as a nation is slipping. In January 2019, Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index, noting Australia’s slide into wrongdoing, finding it to be the 13th least corrupt nation.
Transparency International Australia chief executive Serena Lillywhite shared a range of issues which she believes are impairing our reputation as a democracy which actively targets corruption:
“The misuse of travel allowances, inadequate regulation of foreign political donations, conflicts of interest in planning approvals, revolving doors and a culture of mateship, inappropriate industry lobbying in large-scale projects such as mining, and the misuse of power by leading politicians have no doubt had an impact”.
Wind the clock forward, and while Australia has moved up a smidge, as we’re now the 12th-least corrupt nation in the world, Transparency International has flagged us as one of the 21 nations where perceived corruption has worsened “significantly” over the past eight years. Interestingly, 34% believed that corruption had significantly increased since then.
Indeed, the last twelve months has seemingly been a smorgasbord of political wrongdoing. Outside the many scandals of Gladys Berejiklian, or Peter Dutton hand-picking where grant money went, with the Sydney Morning Herald’s Katina Curtis noting that Dutton “diverted almost half the total pool of funding away from recommended projects to his handpicked ones in January 2019.”
Yesterday, an audit of the Coalition-run commuter car park program found that “not one of the 47 commuter car park sites promised by the Coalition at the 2019 election was selected by the infrastructure department, with projects worth $660m handpicked by the government on advice of its MPs and candidates.”
The Australian National Audit Office released the findings on Monday, claiming that the program was “not effective” and identification of projects “was not demonstrably merit-based”, leading to shadow urban infrastructure minister, Andrew Giles calling the program “sports rorts on steroids”.
Perhaps the mindset could be best defined by the cocksure nonsense of Deputy NSW Premier John Baliaro, who defended the use of bushfire relief funds to pork-barrel his interests, claiming it is ‘what elections are for’
Transparency International shares four key recommendations in order for us to buck the trend:
Putting in place laws and institutions that will prevent corruption from happening in the first place. Legal frameworks and access to information are essential components of a healthy political system where citizens can play a role in demanding accountability and preventing corruption. Whistleblower protection mechanisms and autonomous, well-resourced anti-corruption agencies are also a must in the Asia Pacific region.
Reducing impunity for the corrupt. Professional and independent justice systems are necessary where police and prosecutors can respond to technical criteria and not political power plays.
Improving space for civil society to speak out. Governments should ensure that activists can speak freely throughout the region without fear of retaliation.
Improving integrity and values. Schools and universities should educate youth about ethics and values. Corporations should promote business integrity in the private sector and make these ideas more mainstream.